[Marxism] Dozens of Latino workers forced out of jobs at NJ plant

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Apr 26 19:35:53 MDT 2006

Something has happened on my job, to which I do not know exactly how to
respond yet aside from being opposed to it and solidarizing with the
people it is most directly happening to.
This morning I was called in casually by the boss, who, apparently in
jest, asked me if I had my papers and id.  It was clear he knew I did (I
had filled out the forms).  So seeking to get along and differentiate at
the same time, I joked, "I've got it all but its all fake, of course."
End of discussion, and no problems for me personally.  At this point I
did not know that anything real was happening.
Later I found out that dozens of workers had been called in and grilled
for their papers, and that dozens of them were not able to produce them.
They were told they had one month's time before they had to leave the
job.  Some already have.
I suspect immigration has been putting pressure on the company to
straighten out its hiring practices.  This is a low-wage packing plant,
with very, very weak Teamsters representation and has had maybe 150
workers on all shifts. They pack and distribute fruit and vegetables.
A few days ago leaflets had turned up building, I think, the May 1
walkout.  They were a little unclear about dates and times.
This is a big blow for the whole workforce of course, and increases
everybody's sense of vulnerability.  For one thing, we may be on short
weeks for a time while the company gets new workers.  We did half a day
Hopefully, the leaflets signal that some of the workers have contacts
with the immigration movement.  I will try to find out more.  Of course,
my stance at work has been to take  no notice or interest in anyone's
status, so I don't even know yet who is being hit directly.
Among the Black workers, there is definite solidarity with those under
attack, but they also can't help notice that as the Latino workers are
forced out, more Blacks from the temp agencies are getting  in.  One
said to me, "Now it's just going to be you and us."  Thus the
combination of solidarity and competition plays out at the bottom of the
social ladder.
The fact is that I think a savage counteroffensive is being launched
against the deep threat posed by the massive immigration demos to
political and labor stability.  And we should have this in mind also
with the  ruthless attack being carried out against the TWU in New York,
including local 200 President Toussaint.
They are determined to force the undocumented-- and other immigrants as
well -- back into silence.  They have no plans to get rid of them --
they need their labor.  But they want them cowed and at the bottom.  All
signs are that this attack will escalate.  The threats to social and
labor passivity are being met with brutal force that is aimed at sending
a message to all concerned.
There are a lot of debates over whether immigrants are used to lower
wages.  We should remember that the reserve army of labor and the
relative surplus population are worldwide phenomena,  and only
secondarily national. But in a sense yes, immigrants are expected to
take lower wage scales.  So are Blacks.  So are women.  So are many
legal immigrants as well as undocumented ones.  So are unskilled such as
myself.  So are the elderly like myself.  So are youth who drop out of
high school.  So are former prisoners.  And so on and so on.
The real issue for us is not the fact that those who are paid lower
wages or are unemployed exert objective  downward pressure on wages --
that's hardly our reason for living or anything but how the system works
-- but how the wage scales are effected by struggle.
All the stereotypes need to go.  The so called pro-immigrant bosses
claim they do work no-one else will do.  The immigrants where I work
have jobs that Black youth want, too.  I have a job that a Black youth
or an undocumented immigrant might jump at.  If we adopt the standpoint
of competition, we are all stealing jobs everytime we get hired instead
of somebody else, and its in the nature of capitalism that you always
get hired instead of somebody else.
The impact of immigration, Blacks, women, etc. depends basically on the
class struggle.  The civil rights movement tyorted upward pressure on
the wages of all labor, and was part of gains of rights and so forth
across the board.  That's why those immigration demos were like a dagger
at the heart of the whole ruling class.  It was a weapon against the way
they seek to use immigrant labor.  The current attacks exert downward
pressure and deepen the loss of rights for all of us.
There are a lot of indications that the real fight of the working class
in this country is going to come more from the bottom strata -- the
people who are moved not just  or primarily by trade union concerns --
but by national pride, indignation, and solidarity,  by feminist "ain't
I a woman?" self assertion.  It national feeling of Blacks has to be
kept in mind as a factor in the power that shut down New York for three
days.  They are taking blows now, but what they did will not be erased
-- not in these times.
Likewise with the immigration protests.
Of course, I don't know whether my coworkers will feel helpless.  I mean
I feel a little helpless at the moment.  The law is stacked against
them, and will become worse.
We, of course, need movements and fighters that feel their strength is
greater than the letter of the law, like what happened in December in
NY, and what the "illegals" who marched with their Mexican flags and
their bold demands for rights and recognition as human beings.  I think
we are beginning to get there, but I admit I feel thrown by the fact
many people I have worked with and been friendly with for months are
being driven out of my workplace.
I will try to get more info on any organizations in the area.  I know
there is a Day Laborer's Group in New Jersey that has been organizing to
help them.

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